Wednesday 24 July 2019

Community mental health clinics cancelled today as psychiatric nurses begin overtime ban

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Eilish O’Regan

A number of community mental health clinics had to be cancelled today as psychiatric nurses began an overtime ban.

The action by members of the Psychiatric Nurses Association is part of their long-running pay campaign and a failure to resolve grievances at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Although the action will not affect normal shifts it means that overtime is banned in the services which are highly reliant on nurses doing extra hours due to around 700 vacancies.

Staff had to be redeployed from some clinics today to take up duty in psychiatric units and hospitals.

In a further complication some night duty staff could not leave their posts this morning.

This was because some nurses due to come on duty refused to do so because of inadequate staffing numbers.

Health Minister Simon Harris appealed to both sides to resume talks and he asked the nurses to suspend the action in the interest of patients.

Mr Harris said there was now a 'worrying trend' whereby trade unions were entering negotiations, and then staging industrial actions in the middle of that process.

The PNA said today its members will work only their contracted hours "in response to the lack of any meaningful progress in five months of talks to resolve the growing recruitment and retention crisis in mental health services."

PNA General Secretary, Peter Hughes said nurses are irate and frustrated that they must revert to working only contracted hours having suspended their strike action five months ago on the clear understanding that the HSE was ready to offer substantial solutions to finally address the crisis in recruitment and retention.

"Over the past five months of talks which have made little if any progress, nurses have shown extraordinary patience as they watch the mental health services struggle with staff shortages. In some services, these shortages amount to over 20pc and overall nationally we know that there are 700 vacancies in mental health services.

"This is not sustainable in a vital area of our health care where demand is growing all the time.

"From the ‘get go’ PNA has been fully engaged in working to secure a satisfactory outcome in the talks with the  employers represented by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), Department of Health (DOH) and HSE , and under the auspices of the WRC.

"Unfortunately, we have not been convinced that the employer has shown any urgency over the past five months to bring the talks to a conclusion."

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